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JR Motorsports reveals new car number, driver assignments

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JR Motorsports on Friday used the announcement of a car number change to reveal its driver lineup for a new No. 8 car in the Xfinity Series.

What was the No. 9 team in 2018 will become the No. 8 team in 2019 with an assortment of drivers including Zane Smith, Jeb Burton, Ryan Truex, Spencer Gallagher and Ryan Preece.

Noah Gragson, the rookie who was originally announced to take over the No. 1 Chevrolet, will now drive the No. 9.

Meanwhile, Michael Annett, who has driven the No. 5 since he joined JRM in 2017, will now drive the No. 1.

The No. 1 has history with the Annett family, as sprint-car racing legend Sammy Swindell drove it in a car owned by Michael’s father, Harrold Annett.

Only the car numbers are changing on Gragson’s and Annett’s cars. The previously announced crew chief and roster lineups will remain the same.

Justin Allgaier will continue to drive the No. 7.

MORE: JR Motorsports, GMS Racing join forces on driver development program

The No. 8 has a long history in the Earnhardt family, with team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving it in the Cup Series from 1999 – 2007. His grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, also drove it, as well as Junior’s father, Dale Earnhardt.

“Everybody remembers the number on the side of the car,” Earnhardt Jr. said in a press release. “The No. 8 is very special to me and to JR Nation. There’s a lot of history with the No. 8 in my family and in NASCAR. It’s time to write some new stories and continue to add to the number’s rich heritage.”

Taylor Moyer has been named the crew chief of the No. 8. Moyer, 31, joins JRM after serving as an engineer for Hendrick Motorsports on the cars driven by Kasey Kahne and William Byron.

Gallagher will race for JRM after stepping away from full-time race at the end of 2018 to move into a leadership role at GMS Racing. 

Preece drove for Joe Gibbs Racing part-time the last two seasons and will drive for JTG Daugherty Racing full-time in the Cup Series this season.

Smith, a member of NASCAR Next, is making his debut in the Xfinity Series this year.

Truex, the brother of Cup driver Martin Truex Jr., joins JRM after competing full-time for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2018. Truex Jr. won two Xfinity championships for Earnhardt while driving the No. 8 in 2004-05.

Burton, the son of former Cup driver Ward Burton, made three Xfinity starts for Richard Childress Racing last year.

Here’s when each driver will race the No. 8 this season. This makes up only 24 of the season’s 33 races.

Gallagher – Daytona International Speedway (Feb. 16), Talladega Superspeedway (April 27) and the return event at Daytona (July 5).

Preece – Atlanta Motor Speedway (Feb. 23), Auto Club Speedway (March 16), Pocono Raceway (June 1) and Watkins Glen International (Aug. 3)

Smith – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 2), Bristol Motor Speedway (April 6), both Richmond Raceway events (April 12 and Sept. 20), Dover International Speedway (May 4 and Oct. 5) and Iowa Speedway (June 16 and July 27)

Truex – ISM Raceway (March 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 14), Charlotte Motor Speedway (Sept. 28) and Kansas Speedway (Oct. 19)

Burton – Texas Motor Speedway (March 30 and Nov. 2), Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 25), Chicagoland Speedway (June 29) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 16)

Kyle Busch touts support he’s received for comments at Las Vegas

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RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Busch says he’s received support from fellow drivers, who told him “what I said is not wrong” about the ability of some competitors.

Busch was upset last weekend after running into the back of Garrett Smithley’s car and being impeded by Joey Gase in the Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After the race, Busch told NBCSN: “We’re at the top echelon of motorsports, and we’ve got guys who have never won Late Model races running on the racetrack. It’s pathetic. They don’t know where to go. What else do you do?”

Smithley responded on social media and Gase later responded on social media.

MORE: Kyle Busch’s comments address murky issue with no solution 

Busch was asked Friday at Richmond Raceway if he watched video of the incident with Smithley since last week and if his opinion changed.

“I did see video of last week,” Busch said. “It doesn’t matter what my opinion is. I get beat up on it anyway.”

Busch was encouraged by support he received.

“I’ve had multiple texts from other people that are race car drivers and non-race car drivers this week that have said what I said is not wrong, but there’s other general masses that say different,” Busch said.

Busch’s race at Las Vegas started poorly when he hit the wall in the opening laps and went down two laps. He explained what happened:

“We started out, we practiced our car and we were pretty decent in practice, but I felt like I was a tick tight, so we made some changes going into the race to free it up,” Busch said. “The first run at Vegas is always looser. And I guess I didn’t mentally prepare myself for that enough, and we were 10 numbers loose, like crashing loose.

“I got myself in trouble. I got myself into the fence. Was able to battle back from all of that throughout everything of the day and put ourselves in position for a solid finish and we just didn’t get it.”

Asked what he could have done differently, Busch said:

“I should have been prepared for it,” he said. “I actually prepared (crew chief Adam Stevens) for it, but I guess didn’t prepare myself for it. I was getting passed, guys were going by me and I was falling backwards and I was like I got to go here, I’ve got to move forward and pushed too hard.”

Busch recovered to get back on the lead lap and was running in the top five when he had the contact with Smithley. Busch finished 19th.

“For as bad as our day started, we were certainly able to make something of it and come back for a top-four run until close to the end,” Busch said when asked if his frustration hurts his performance. “People want to say because of my state of mind that’s the reason I ran into the back of a slow car, that’s funny people know how I think and what I am inside my helmet. I don’t think that had anything to do with it.”

Busch, the regular-season champion, qualified fourth for Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Results, Xfinity point standings after Richmond playoff race

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Christopher Bell led a career best 238 laps Friday night on his way to winning the Xfinity playoff opener at Richmond Raceway.

It is his seventh win of the year, matching his total from 2018.

The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

Bell secured a spot in the second round of the playoffs with his win.

The four drivers currently below the cutline for advancing to the next round are Brandon Jones (-15 points from cutline), Ryan Sieg (-19), Justin Haley (-20) and John Hunter Nemechek (-21).

Click here for the point standings.

Christopher Bell wins Xfinity playoff opener at Richmond

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Christopher Bell put together a convincing win Friday night at Richmond Raceway to open the Xfinity Series playoffs.

Bell led 238 of 250 laps – a career high – and swept each stage to earn his seventh victory of the year, matching his total from 2018.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has now won three of the last four races at Richmond and six of the last 11 short track races.

The top five was made up of pole-sitter Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe.

“That one was pretty special,” Bell told NBCSN. “Going 92 laps straight there is really difficult, man. We were sliding all around. I felt like if I could get to traffic I was going to be in good shape. Because my car could really move around good. I could run up, I could run down. (Cole Custer) was keeping pressure on us pretty good, but this Rheem Supra was too good.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Christopher Bell

STAGE 2 WINNER: Christopher Bell

More: race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Harrison Burton was the highest finishing non-playoff driver in sixth … Austin Cindric earned his first top five in the last four races. He finished second in both Richmond races this year … In his 300th career Xfinity start, Justin Allgaier finished fourth after he had to start from the rear for changing a tire … Chase Briscoe earned his first top five in the last five races.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Mike Marlar wasn’t able to complete the first lap of his first Xfinity start. He was involved in an incident and finished last … Vinnie Miller had a mechanical failure with 25 laps left in the first stage. He finished 35th … Tyler Matthews finished 33rd after he wrecked in Stage 1 … Playoff driver Justin Haley had a pit road penalty and finished 17th … John Hunter Nemechek finished 15th after he spun while trying to intentionally spin Joe Graf Jr. right before the race’s conclusion. It was retaliation for a bump-and-run by Graf earlier in the lap.

NOTABLE: Christopher Bell has a win percentage of 22%, third all-time in the Xfinity Series.

WHAT’S NEXT: Drive for the Cure 200 on the Charlotte Roval at 3:30 p.m. ET Sept. 28 on NBCSN

 

Provisional starting lineup for Richmond Cup race

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Playoff drivers Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick are on the provisional front row for Saturday’s Cup Series playoff race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The top five is completed by playoff drivers Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer.

The highest qualifying non-playoff driver is Jimmie Johnson (10th).

The lowest qualifying playoff driver was Joey Logano (28th).

The starting lineup will be made official after pre-race inspection Saturday. One failure will result in a qualifying time being disallowed.

Click here for the provisional starting lineup.